What Does a Real Woman Look Like?

Gingerbread, eggnog, plates of Christmas cookies, holiday parties with the special dishes made from recipes passed down from generation to generation of your family: it’s that time of year of joy and celebration and — not that it’s always mentioned — stress. Holiday parties can mean getting dressed up and wanting to look your best with perfect “holiday hair” and clothes to match. The “food-centric holiday season” can be extremely hard if you have an eating disorder or have concerns about your weight and appearance.

The now-routine onslaught of images of slender, “perfect” bodies (often made so thanks to a little digital manipulation) doesn’t help. A Rhode Island-based website called My Body Gallery seeks to counter the barrage of images of one unhealthfully skinny model after the next that we’re bombarded with by offering images of what real women really look like. My Body Gallery has a gallery of images that you can search based on height, weight, pant size, shirt size and body type; the images show women of different proportions engaged in real-world activities in real-world settings.

My Body Gallery seeks to provide “an accurate reflection of what real women look like” and to address body dysmorphia. Someone with body dysmorphia disorder ”can’t stop thinking about a flaw” in her or his appearance, even though that “flaw” may be minor and even imagined. Indeed, body dysmorphic disorder is sometimes called “imagined ugliness,” when a person is just not able to see the quite-all-right reality in the mirror, but imagines something else. Even those who don’t have a diagnosed body dysmorphic disorder do not always really see what’s in the mirror: 95 percent of women who do not have disordered eating overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, while being able to estimate the proportions of a box accurately.

As further evidence that fixation on achieving a certain body image isn’t exclusive to women, My Body Gallery notes that two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their lives to achieve their weight goals.

At a time when we routinely expect that images have been digitally altered as it has become just too easy to do so, and that one-third of adult Americans are obese while some 10 million women and 1 million men have an eating disorder, there is certainly a great need to see what people really look like. The sad thing is that too many of us can’t just look at ourselves and accept the body and the person that we are.

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Photo by Ivan C


Zuzana K.
Zuzana K6 years ago

Thank you Elvina A.for your comment and for bringing up another aspect of body image. I am sometimes teased for being 'not womany' because I am quite bony and muscular not curvatious so your comment makes me feel much better for not feeling alone :)

Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

What does a real woman look like? My fiancee. Look at our picture.

Danielle I.
Danielle I6 years ago

What does a real woman look like? She looks like You and Me, like your neighbour, like the shop clerk or the lawyer or the cleaner.....We are all different, we are all real woman and we are ALL beautiful. Big, small, short, tall and everything inbetween.

Madelaine C-H
Pete Smith6 years ago

I am size 8-10 'UK', I wear make-up, heels and skinny jeans. I love jewellery.
Oh, and I'm a feminist.I do judo, work politically, and write columns on politics, culture
and current issues.

What does that make me?
Am I real woman?

Of course. Same as every other woman out there. We are not one size, one colour, height and set of interests- We are all unique, individuals, different. We express ourselves through different ways- but we are still ourselves. There is no such thing as an average woman.

Beauty comes in many forms. Love who you are, and respect yourself.

You are one in 7.5 billion.

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Shereen A.
Shereen Alcala6 years ago

Glad to see some men are still into real women :)

Maria Cristina A.
Maria Cristina A6 years ago

Being healthy is very important but it's wrong making a life saver goal out of fitting in clothes (and elevators, and chairs, etc) made for quite thin people. I really am fed up of those company policies that have us be outcasts, because we don't have the small enough measures, for proffit (a few cm's of fabric from every piece, and in the end you made thousands more...). There are other, better, things to occupy our minds on than how we're going to be able to get in any kind of decent clothing.
We have to stand up and conquer the right to be a woman, a man, a child: a human. We can't allow a big company's proffit to tell us we're not worth the trouble of making things to fit us, and not the other way around.
We have to stand up and regain our right that our worth be measured by who we are and not the size our clothes are.

Elvina Andersson
Elvina A6 years ago

I think we all should care less about how our bodies look and not compare ourselves to each other. We should see our own good qualities instead.

Another thing that is making me worried is that some people seem to think that if youre thin youre automatically anorectic or "less woman" than if you got curves, which is quite an insult. We all look different but some people seem to have a hard time accepting it.

Bruce S.
Bruce S6 years ago

"What Does a Real Woman Look Like?"

Like the Supreme Court said with reference to pornography, I'll know "a real women" when I see her.

Janice F.
Janice Forester6 years ago

women come in all shapes and sizes everyone is different thats being human ! we dont live in world where everyone is the same like a robot !